In what could be a major breakthrough for gay rights legislation, the Senate could vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as early as next week, according to a Senate Democratic aide.
The bill, which passed out of committee 15-7, would prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Three Republicans on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted with Democrats in July to send the legislation to the full Senate. The gay rights bill, spearheaded by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., currently has 53 co-sponsors. Backers of the bill are "confident" they can get 60 votes to break a procedural filibuster, given the bipartisan vote out of committee, the Democratic aide said.
“I thank Majority Leader Reid for committing to bring ENDA to the floor this work period," Merkley said in a statement. "Americans understand that it’s time to make sure our LGBT friends and family are treated fairly and have the same opportunities. Now it’s time for our laws to catch up. People should be judged at work on their ability to do the job, period.”
With Sen.-elect Cory Booker, D-N.J., being sworn in Thursday, the bill will be another vote closer to passage. So far 51 Democrats and four Republicans have announced their support.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the first Senate Republican to endorse gay marriage, has yet to support ENDA.